10 Top Trail Running Towns

  • by
  • Luke Pahlau

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder is a trail runner’s paradise. From the nearby Flatirons to the legendary Bolder Boulder 10K, runners choose between rubber and rock while surrounded by scenic views. It’s no wonder Boulder consistently wins the title “Fittest city in America.” Running in Boulder is like breathing: everyone does it.

Best For: Running along the Flatirons

Tahoe City, California

At an elevation of 6,250 feet, trail running in Tahoe is as exhausting as it is beautiful. The trail running city is wedged in between Lake Tahoe and hundreds of miles of National Forest. This is basecamp for any adrenaline-fueled excursion, but trail running tops the list. Be sure to take a jog around Emerald Bay for pristine views of the crystal clear water and Sierra Mountains.

Best For: Vistas of the lake, going long

Prescott, Arizona

Sitting at an elevation of 5,400 feet, the Prescott Circle trail is a 54.5-mile loop that can easily be broken up into chunks (if a double marathon isn’t in the cards for you). Escape the vehement Arizona heat by moving up high into this mountain town, one home to over 28 city-maintained trails. Be sure to keep your eye out for rattlesnakes and concealed cacti.

Best For: Desert beauty, minus the heat (sometimes)

Bend, Oregon

Dubbed one of America’s top trail running cities, Bend is encircled by a string of dormant volcanoes: the Three Sisters. These ancient cones have become popular trail running destinations. Outside of Bend, the Mastodon Trail Race (AKA the 10ish Mile Trail Run) takes place. The race is a solid 10(ish) miles that will have you “Bending” over from exhaustion by the finish.

Best For: Dying volcanoes and burning calves

Bozeman, Montana

About two hours from Yellowstone, segments of Bozeman’s mountainous terrain are optimized for trail runners. Step across stone and splash through creeks—the rolling Bridger Mountains both are aerobic and idyllic. Locals recommend Hyalite Creek Trail, an 11-mile round trip with dozens of waterfalls. Rumor has it; the Fountain of Youth (or a least a picturesque lake) sits at the trail’s terminus.

Best For: Waterfalls and rolling trails

Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte is surrounded by some of the most picturesque wilderness in Colorado. A low year-round population in CB means solitude during an invigorating high-altitude running experience; start at 9,000ft and go higher. It’s not unusual to run alone for hours during the off-season, so take care of yourself.

Best For: Running through wildflower-dotted valleys

Monson, Maine

Monson is speckled with over 14 lakes, including scenic Lake Hebron. The result is miles of intertwined loops. Monson is home to the longest wilderness section of the legendary Appalachian Trail, providing a plethora of trail running opportunities free from urban distractions.

Best For: Lakes and unsullied wilderness

Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska’s largest city has 120 miles of trails within city limits. Conveniently, Chugach State Park is immediately outside of town. Although the months available for trail running are constrained, summer running is endless once the trails melt out.

Best For: Plentiful wildlife and expansive mountains

Branson, Missouri

Surprised to see Missouri in here? Branson is mainly known for tour bus-fueled theaters, museums and earth-leveling tornados. However, there are the numerous trails surrounding this Ozark town. One of the nearby needles in the haystack, Lakeside Forest Wilderness Trail, is populated by deer and free of people. Forget selfies with Elvis at the Wax Museum and hit the hidden trails of Branson.

Best For: (Almost) urban trails

Middlebury, Vermont

Nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont, Middlebury is a small town that serves as an outpost for big adventure. One local favorite for a quick run is atop Snake Mountain. With red clovers and serpentine trails as prevalent as the snakes, the mountain’s summit provides a heart-pounding distraction from the business of life.

Best For: Small town feel, big time trails

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